The seemingly innocent observation that the activities of
organisms bring about changes in environments is so obvious that it
seems an unlikely focus for a new line of thinking about evolution.
Yet niche construction--as this process of organism-driven
environmental modification is known--has hidden complexities. By
transforming biotic and abiotic sources of natural selection in
external environments, niche construction generates feedback in
evolution on a scale hitherto underestimated--and in a manner that
transforms the evolutionary dynamic. It also plays a critical role
in ecology, supporting ecosystem engineering and influencing the
flow of energy and nutrients through ecosystems. Despite this,
niche construction has been given short shrift in theoretical
biology, in part because it cannot be fully understood within the
framework of standard evolutionary theory.
Wedding evolution and ecology, this book extends evolutionary
theory by formally including niche construction and ecological
inheritance as additional evolutionary processes. The authors
support their historic move with empirical data, theoretical
population genetics, and conceptual models. They also describe new
research methods capable of testing the theory. They demonstrate
how their theory can resolve long-standing problems in ecology,
particularly by advancing the sorely needed synthesis of ecology
and evolution, and how it offers an evolutionary basis for the
Already hailed as a pioneering work by some of the world's most
influential biologists, this is a rare, potentially field-changing
contribution to the biological sciences.
Subjects: Biological Sciences
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